Tuesday, January 22

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Alleyways - Movie Review: Frozen River
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A French film of ‘magicians’
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Carell, Get Smart pay homage to the past
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Want meager plot and redeemimgly mindless action? Look no further.
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"Mongol" soars above the sands of history
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Clooney fails to score with Leatherheads
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Rambo Redux – Sylvester Stallone attacks Asia.
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Resident Evil: Extinction
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Michael Clayton
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George Clooney (l) and Sidney Pollack discuss right and wrong in Michael Clayton.


Clooney steps forward
with maybe his best


Movie review
By Brown Burnett
MemphisMojo.com editor

Michael Clayton is the George Clooney star vehicle for which his fans have been waiting for several years now.    For the last few films he has camouflaged his talent to head ensemble casts as Ocean’s 11, 12 and 13 (2001-07) and Syriana (1995) come to mind.   He’s also chosen roles that allow him to simply blend in, such as Good Night and Good Luck (2006). Clooney has proven to be a pretty good comedy actor in Three Kings (1999) and in his two Coen brothers films, O Brother Where Art Thou (2000) and Intolerable Cruelty (2003) and now we see him starring in a drama that takes on the always popular topic of morality among the legal eagles - good lawyers vs. bad lawyers with an ominous evil corporation lurking  

Tony Gilroy directed Michael Clayton and does a bang-up job.  Among the films for which he’s written screenplays are the 3 big-budget, high-dollar Bourne movies (2002-07) and the underrated Proof of Life (2000) so he knows his action and suspense films.   Michael Clayton’s action is subdued and its suspense is understated, building slowly with each crease in the forehead of Clooney’s title character.

Clayton is a ‘fixer,’ a troubleshooter who takes care of a huge law firm’s emergencies.  A hit-and-run client tells Clooney/Clayton he had heard how great he is at his job  only to be corrected when Clayton says, “I’m a janitor,” referring to how he has to clean up missteps and screw-up by clients.  A few minutes later, we see Clooney pull his car off to the side of a back road and walk up a hill to look at some horses, when his leased Mercedes suddenly explodes in the background.   Why was he looking at the horses when he clearly didn’t have time for pastoral gazing?  And who’s trying to kill him by bombing his car?  We kick into flashback mode and we have our movie.

Clooney’s character is obviously deeply flawed, conflicted, broke and desperate but we don’t really know what type of person he is.  A good guy?  A bad guy?  A hard-luck case?   We then learn  that the hottest lawyer in Clooney’s firm, Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson) has simultaneously had a bi-polar relapse and an attack of conscience. But which came first, the bi-polar relapse or the conscience?  Edens’ timing couldn’t be worse since all this happens just before he was to lead the defense of a corporation that could make or break their law firm.

As Clooney digs into Wilkinson’s world, our hero/anti-hero is tired of his ‘fixer’ role and seems to want to do the right thing – for a change – and see if his friend is really telling the truth under all that madness.  And what if the claims of corporate shenanigans are real?    Who’s right?  Who’s wrong?  Who, if anyone, will be paid off? Clayton’s roadblocks to the truth include the always interesting Tilda Swinton as a desperate corporate climber and Clooney’s own law firm teammates such as Michael O’Keefe.  Clooney’s cop brother (David Lansbury) and the head of the firm (Sidney Pollack) are skeptical of this ‘white light’ conversion and to make things more complicated there are 2 shadowy private detectives Terry Serpico and Robert Prescott, who seem to resort to ‘any means necessary’ for their clients.

The suspense isn’t built around “who are the bad guys?” because we learn that right away.   Instead it’s all about the mystery of the evolution of Clooney’s character.  Is he seeking the truth in a true change of conscience or is he just trying to beat his creditors? That may not sound that suspenseful but the combination of Gilroy’s writing and directing, some plum-role acting by Wilkinson, and Clooney’s career-best performance make Michael Clayton one of the year’s best films.

I give Michael Clayton an ‘A-.’    It will be a surprise if Hollywood insider Clooney doesn’t come away with some Oscar recognition for  himself, the film and Wilkinson.

Mojo Approved

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